Unki Mine brings hope to the sick

Hundreds of patients with kidney failure will benefit from Shurugwi-based Unki platinum mine’s kidney dialysis centre to serve eight districts in the province.

Isolation hospital in new look after refurbishments by Unki.
Isolation hospital in new look after refurbishments by Unki.

“It’s a huge relief. At some point I had lost hope in life as it had become unbearable and too costly to travel all the way to either Bulawayo or Harare twice a week for kidney dialysis treatment. However, now I have the service in my backyard. Thanks to Unki,” said Winston Chando, while waiting to complete the last five minutes of his treatment at Gweru General Hospital.

Dialysis is a process by which people whose kidneys no longer function properly have their bodily function performed by machines. The machines literally replace the function of kidneys – which is the removal of waste and excess water from the blood.

A few years after independence, the dialysis machines at the Gweru hospital broke down and were never replaced. This situation resulted in desperately ill people having to travel to either Harare or Bulawayo at least twice a week to secure kidney dialysis treatment. In the prevailing economic climate, the situation had become a nightmare for those affected.

Quality of life has improved since Unki Mines purchased the machines and set up a kidney dialysis treatment centre. The platinum mine also has a fully equipped casualty ward and has financed renovations to the health care centre at a cost of about $1 million.

“We want the presence of Unki Mine to be felt in all communities near our operations. To us, health care comes first and since our establishment in Shurugwi, we have always thrived to ensure that hospitals and clinics are equipped and have the capacity to save lives. That is the reason why health centres in Shurugwi and Gweru, Unki are contributing so positively,” said July Ndlovu, chairman of Amplats, the South African based parent company of Unki Mines. A visit to three clinics in Gweru proved his point. Tambudzai Chikusva, the sister in charge of the Isolation Hospital, said the mine had transformed the centre from being a ‘dangerous place into a home’ for quarantined patients battling diseases like Tuberculosis that spreads easily upon contact between the affected and the public.

“We treat people with long-time diseases like TB that require them to stay here for lengthy periods. However, the hospital used to be a structurally dangerous place with gutters hanging precariously, peeling walls peeling and a roof threatening to cave in. Government and the council had no money to make the repairs. Unki Mines came to our rescue. It’s now a hospital that is equivalent to a home because of the extensive renovations done by the mine,” she said.

Quarantined patients showed their appreciation by singing song to this reporter saying a clean and face-lifted environment always give a sense of hope for survival for anyone who is ill.

Christopher Ruwodo, the Gweru council’s Director of Health, also praised the platinum mine for their good work. “The fees paid by patients at our clinics and hospitals are insignificant.

In fact they amount to 10% of what any health institution needs to operate. We as council are cash-strapped and at one point we did not know how to move forward.

However, intervention by Unki amounting to thousands of dollars have brought hope and its worth praising,” he said.

The council owns the three clinics, Isolation Hospital, Mkoba Polyclinic and Mkoba 1 clinic. Sarah Gwauya, sister-in-charge of Mkoba 1 clinic, explained that majority of the city’s 160,000 population now frequent the institution because of its suburban location and the majority feel elated by its improved condition that was facilitated by the mine. “The morale of the usually disgruntled workers at the mine was heightened when the mine made extensive renovations and provided materials like furniture and equipment that make work easier. We are happy now,” she said.

Minister David Parirenytwa, who officially handed over the casualty ward constructed by Unki at Gweru General Hospital, urged other corporates to chip in and make similar interventions that saved lives.

Gweru MP, Sessil Zvidzai, reiterated that if companies were persuaded and not forced to engage in corporate projects, as is the case with the indigenisation regulations, they would do better.

“More can be achieved through collaboration models of this nature. Methods of coercion, like the indigenisation policy, do not breed trust and cooperation. This is why the prescription of 51/49 percent share arrangement and share ownership schemes have not delivered anything of the magnitude of the Casualty Ward and Dialysis centre at the Gweru General Hospital put together by Unki Mine,” said the MP.

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